5 Plant Powered Foods to Protect Your Skin

Plant based foods can protect against harmful UV damage Plant based foods can protect against harmful UV damage

These plant based foods can protect against harmful UV damage from the sun.

Stay Healthy on the Outside Too

While it’s hard not to fall in love with the casual lifestyle that summertime brings, days in the constant heat and the sun can inevitably take a toll on our bodies. Thankfully, many plant-powered foods that are beneficial for maintaining your body’s performance from the inside, such as healthy cardiovascular and digestive systems, are actually good for keeping your body healthy on the outside, too.  Many whole plant-foods have the incredible ability to help protect your skin from UV damage, promote strong nails and healthy hair, and even help delay the signs of aging. 

Live Longer

The trick to keeping your body and mind young is truly in the power of plants. In fact, a new study indicates that a diet rich in mostly plants may increase your lifespan, compared to a diet rich in meat.  Researchers at Loma Linda University followed thousands of Seventh-day Adventists (who promote a vegetarian diet) since 1958.  In October 2012, the results of this study were presented at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2012 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Philadelphia.  The study, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health, reported that vegetarian men live an average of 9.5 years longer and women an average of 6.1 years longer than meat-eaters. 

Not only that, since plant-based diets provide a hefty supply of phytochemicals and antioxidants, they help to fight off oxidation and chronic inflammation, which may be at the root of diseases of aging, as well as a factor in the signs of aging. In fact, a study published by the Journal in the American College of Nutrition found that high intake of plant-based foods, such as vegetables, legumes and olive oil is protective against wrinkles caused from sun exposure. Animal foods, on the other hand, such as dairy and meat products, seemed to have the opposite effect.

5 Foods to Protect Your Skin

Here are 5, summer plant-powered foods that can help to protect your skin and keep you feeling beautiful, even during the dog days of summer.

Tomatoes can protect the skin from harmful UV damage Tomatoes provide the important antioxidant, lycopene – the plant compound that gives tomatoes their rich red hue – which has been linked to protection of the skin from UV damage in several studies. When you cook tomatoes the lycopene becomes even more readily available to your body. So it is strongly recommended that you to stir cooked tomato products such as tomato sauce or canned tomatoes into pasta dishes, soups, chili, curry, or casseroles.

Apples can protect the skin from harmful UV damage Apples, plump and juicy, may help you keep early aging at bay, too. Apples are filled with a class of phytochemicals called phenolic compounds that have strong antioxidant activity, which helps fight the signs of aging caused by the damaging effects of free radicals. In particular, quercetin, the primary phenolic in apples have been linked with improved blood sugar control. But, don’t peel your apples. A preliminary study found that many of the apple’s phenolic compounds are located in the skin.

Flax and chia seeds can protect the skin from harmful UV damage Flax seeds and chia seeds. Gone are the days when fat was feared. Nutrition scientists are learning more and more that it’s not so much the amount of fat we eat that is of concern; it’s the type of fat we choose. There’s little debate that omega-3 fatty acids fit into the healthy fat category. Not only do omega 3s – the fat found in flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and fatty fish – help to reduce the risk of heart disease, they also help to reduce inflammation and skin dryness.

Dark chocolate can protect the skin from harmful UV damage Dark chocolate. If you’re a chocoholic, you’ll be delighted to hear that growing research supports eating small portions of dark chocolate or cocoa products – about 1 ounce a day – for heart health, as well as fighting inflammation that results in the diseases of aging. Just make sure the chocolate contains at least 70 percent cocoa to reap the full benefits of this natural anti-inflammatory agent.

Water can protect the skin from harmful UV damage Water should naturally be your first beverage choice when it comes to quenching your thirst during those hot days at the beach. Water is as vital to your health and beauty as any other nutrient in your diet. We need water to help distribute all the wonderful phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals we’re putting in your bodies, as well as ridding our bodies of toxins. But you don’t necessarily need to drink all your fluid needs. Load up on fruits and vegetables with high levels of fluids such as melons, strawberries, lettuce, and cucumber.

Sharon Palmer, R.D.

Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian™ is a writer and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Over 850 of her articles have been published in national publications, including Prevention, Better Homes and Gardens and Today’s Dietitian. She is also the editor of the award-winning publication Environmental Nutrition and writes for her blog, The Plant-Powered Blog. Her specific expertise is in plant-based nutrition, including Mediterranean, vegetarian and vegan diets. Her second book, Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps and 125 Delicious Recipes, will be in stores spring of 2014.